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Bulls’ Marco Belinelli has turned into free-agent gold

Tyreke Evans Marco Belinelli

Tyreke Evans, Marco Belinelli

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Updated: April 18, 2013 7:12AM



There will be plenty of time for phone calls between agent and organization this offseason. Marco Belinelli has been around long enough to know how the business end of the NBA works.

But if it’s up to the free agent-to-be, the phone calls will be few and the handshakes will come quickly.

After all, as a child growing up in Italy, he didn’t wake up at
4 a.m. to watch Michael Jordan and Co. win championships to play just one season when he got his chance to suit up for the Bulls.

Dream jobs don’t come easy, and walking away from one isn’t easy, either.

“This is the most comfortable I’ve felt with any NBA team,’’ ­Belinelli said after the victory ­Friday at Golden State. “I felt good as a player in New Orleans, and every year since I was a ­rookie I’ve grown up. But this year, this has been ­different.

“When I was a free agent and Thibs [coach Tom Thibodeau] called me, the organization called me to come be with the Chicago Bulls, I was thinking, ‘Damn, man, the Chicago Bulls are calling me to play here.’ This is a team that calls you to try and win a championship. This is a place where I can improve, where I can be a better player. So, yeah, I want to stay. But the biggest thing is this is a place where I can win. That’s my mentality.’’

A mentality that might surprise some. Then again, the 6-5 shooting guard, who is averaging 9.9 points in 25.6 minutes, has been full of surprises this season.

When the Bulls announced the one-year, $1.957 million deal, it made sense. Kyle Korver was gone, and they needed a replacement on the perimeter.

That was the first mistake, according to Belinelli. Not that he couldn’t replace Korver, but that he was just an outside shooter. It’s the most common stereotype in the NBA.

“It’s funny, because, yes, definitely it’s a stereotype,’’ Belinelli said. “I remember when I would work out, all I would hear was, ‘He’s just a shooter.’ I remember when I was in Italy, I was a point guard, I did a lot of things. I’ve just wanted to do my thing. I don’t want to be just a shooter. I’m here to help this team win games, no matter what I have to do.’’

Thibodeau has recognized that.

After getting Belinelli to pass “Playing Thibs Defense 101’’ — admittedly no small feat for the 26-year-old — Thibodeau has freed him up to show an all-around game that had been stifled since he left the Italian league after the 2006-07 season. He was weighted down in large part by a stereotype.

That’s why Belinelli has been given looks at point guard and on pick-and-rolls. He can be effective at it.

“I don’t know if a lot of people understand how big he was in Italy,’’ guard Nate Robinson said. “Vlad [Vladimir Radmanovic] was teasing him the other day, calling him ‘Marco Jordan’ because where he’s from, he’s like their Jordan. It’s just great to see him open up talents by playing a complete game, not just being a shooter. It just shows that he can play with some of the best in the league like that.’’

The Bulls need him to continue playing at that high level.

Veteran Richard Hamilton has been sidelined with a bad back and didn’t even make the West Coast trip. Who knows if he will ever play another game for the Bulls, considering there is a
$5 million team option for next season that likely won’t be picked up.

That clears the way for the team to try to bring back Belinelli.

“Right now there is more to do here,’’ Belinelli said. “I just want to keep going and get to the playoffs, do as good as we can do. But I don’t know, man. I know I feel really good here.’’



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